Tatchell, Jo

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Tatchell, Jo




E-mail—[email protected]


Journalist. Contributor to media including the Guardian and Prospect.


Shortlisted for the Costa Biography Award, 2006, for Nabeel's Song.


Nabeel's Song: A Family Story of Survival in Iraq, Doubleday (New York, NY), 2006, also published as The Poet of Baghdad: A True Story of Love and Defiance, Broadway (New York, NY), 2008.


Nabeel's Song was published in Dutch as De Dichter van Bagdad.


Journalist Jo Tatchell has spent many years reporting on and visiting the Middle East. During her time there, she was drawn to the story of Nabeel Yasin, an Iraqi poet whose life and family were affected by the rise to power of the Ba'ath religious-political party. Yasin went from being a well respected poet to holding the title "Enemy of the State" in a relatively short period of time, with himself and his family paying the price. It is this story that Tatchell turned into her first book, the biographical novel Nabeel's Song: A Family Story of Survival in Iraq, published in 2006.

In Nabeel's Song, Tatchell tells the story of Yasin's life, from his birth in the 1950s and the happy youth he enjoyed, through a violent Ba'athist overthrow of the Iraqi government in 1963 and all its repercussions, up through 2003 and the end of the Ba'ath party's reign in Iraq, when she talks with Yasin about his memories and hopes. Yasin grew up in a family of seven children, happy, well-educated, and taught to "be true to their principles," as Jacqueline Burton observed on the Post.IE Web site, which unfortunately, under the restrictive Ba'athist rule, sets "them on a downward spiral." Due to their tendency to speak their minds and stick to their beliefs, members of the Yasin family are arrested on numerous occasions, treated with violence and disdain, and young Nabeel is even declared an enemy of the state while in his early twenties. He remains in hiding for several years, but when he is discovered, he makes an escape with his wife and son, eventually ending up in London. As Tatchell mentions in Nabeel's Song, Yasin "is a casualty in a hidden war. Their country has invaded itself and is turning so many of the people into criminals."

Throughout the narrative, the reader observes Ba'athist leader Sadaam Hussein's rise to power and what New Zealand Herald Web site contributor Chris Barton referred to as the dictator's "megalomania," including his insistence on being a visible presence in every Iraqi home. Because of the ruler's harsh dictates, Nabeel requests that the rest of the Yasins publicly declare him no longer a part of the family—it is hoped that this will help them to avoid any punishment for his actions. He has not been able to contact his family in Iraq since, though he still holds out hope of their survival and even talks to them in his heart. Throughout all of the horrors of the tale, however, the family faces their problems with a "forbearance" that Post.IE Web site contributor Burton found "life-affirming." Geographical critic Sian Gibson agreed, noting that more than anything, Nabeel's Song is "a truly moving story that describes the effects of a brutal regime on an ordinary family."

In his New Zealand Herald Web site review, Barton noted the "compelling narrative" that complemented the author's "matter-of-fact" writing style to present a tale that a contributor for the Heatseeker Reviews Web site dubbed "fascinating, horrible" and a work that "should be read by anyone who thinks his own state couldn't become totalitarian."



Tatchell, Jo, Nabeel's Song: A Family Story of Survival in Iraq, Doubleday (New York, NY), 2006.


Booklist, May 1, 2007, Carol Haggas, review of Nabeel's Song, p. 68.

Bookseller, May 4, 2007, review of Nabeel's Song, p. 16.

Geographical, September 2006, Sian Gibson, review of Nabeel's Song, p. 90.

Kirkus Reviews, March 15, 2007, review of Nabeel's Song.

Publishers Weekly, April 2, 2007, review of Nabeel's Song, p. 50.


Heatseeker Reviews,http://www.heatseekers.blogspot.com/ (July 2, 2007), review of Nabeel's Song.

Jo Tatchell Home Page,http://www.nabeelssong.com (January 8, 2008).

Lovereading.co.uk,http://www.lovereading.co.uk/ (January 8, 2008), brief biography of author.

New Zealand Herald,http://www.nzherald.co.nz/ (June 16, 2007), Chris Barton, review of Nabeel's Song.

PEN American Center,http://www.pen.org/ (January 8, 2008), brief biography of author.

Post.IE,http://archives.tcm.ie/ (August 13, 2006), Jacqueline Burton, review of Nabeel's Song.